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Health Secretary holds ICRC responsible

Health Ministry Secretary Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage in a letter to ICRC Sri Lanka Mission Head Paul Castella on Saturday said the International Committee of Red Cross should be responsible for the plight of patients and medical staff attached to Puthukuduyirrupu Hospital for having deviated from the best possible route arranged by the Government to evacuate them.

Dr. Kahadaliyanage referring to a news item in an English daily said the ICRC as a neutral and responsible organisation should express balanced statements with regard to this incident. Kahandaliyanage said the plight of the civilians, patients and medical staff might have never occurred if the ICRC heeded the request made by him to move them towards west where the Security Forces were waiting to receive them and take them to Vavuniya.

He says the ICRC’s allegations against the Government over the plight of patients and civilians in the uncleared areas due to the risk involved as a result of fighting between the LTTE and the Security Forces and shortage of medical supplies are regrettable.

Dr. Kahadaliyanage said the Government has taken all steps possible to protect civilians, patients from any harm due to fighting. They were denied the freedom of getting across to safer areas under Government control where all facilities were made available to ensure their health, safety and welfare.

He said all medical supplies along with health personnel are available without any restriction in Vavuniya to look after the civilians and patients who are stranded as a result of the conflict.

He said the Ministry expects the ICRC to assist the Government to move the patients medical staff and civilians so stranded to reach the facilities made available by the Government in Vavuniya.

He said the patients and the medical staff are willing to come over to the No War Zone or Vavuniya hospital but the LTTE prevents them from leaving the area.

The Ministry requested the assistance of the ICRC in enabling them to reach the No War Zone or Killinochchi or Vavuniya. But the ICRC on their own decided that they should go to Puthumattalam which is away from the desired safe zone. “The Health Ministry appreciates if the ICRC does not point a finger at the Government for their lapses.

The ICRC should jointly work with the Government to achieve common objective of saving the sick and ordinary civilians from the clutches of terrorists.

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